It’s that time of year – marathon time! Some of you might be running your first one, too, which can be daunting. Here are some tips to get you through your final days of prep and to make it to the finish line.
One of the most important things first-time runners need to know: How to use food as fuel correctly.
“To run a marathon, you need to be a butter burner, not a bagel burner. You have to be able to efficiently use fat as fuel,” said Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, the Air Force Marathon’s chief medical consultant.
By Master Sgt. April Lapetoda
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
I never used to push myself physically. Even as a high school athlete, I didn’t feel the drive to push harder. I spent my first 10 years in the Air Force getting by just fine as a smoker who barely exercised. I steadily gained 10 pounds per year during the first four years.
Then, I got pregnant with my first child and gained 70 pounds, and I lost all but 10 without trying.
I hovered around the same weight until four years later when I gained 70 pounds again while pregnant with my second child. This time, the weight didn’t come off. I looked at the scale and realized I had to lose 100 pounds to return to a healthy weight.
I stared at the number each time in disbelief. “Where do I even begin? It’s impossible,” I would think to myself. I didn’t believe in diet pills, and I thought a little bit of physical activity would do the trick.
I hated for people to see me in my Air Force uniform. I was embarrassed. I knew I didn’t meet standards, and at six months postpartum, I failed my fitness test miserably with a score of 51.
Everyone at work gave me sympathy and assured me I was a “good Airman.” I hated it. I just felt fat and knew I needed to change. The fitness test failure and the desire to show everyone that I didn’t need their sympathy proved to be my turning point.
Fortunately, I was provided with extra gym time. I started going four days per week using my co-workers’ sympathy as fuel. I soon started making time to jog on the weekends as well.
I began to see a change in me. Not just in weight, but in energy and self-esteem. I passed my next fitness test, but I wasn’t done. I knew I could do much better. I began to count calories and practice a more portion-controlled diet. I pushed myself harder in the gym too. On my next fitness test, I scored a 93.8 percent – an excellent score.
There was no turning back at that point. I knew I had to maintain that excellent score, but also find new ways to challenge myself. I did so by running farther — first the Army Ten Miler, then half marathons, and I started incorporating weight training into my routine to increase my strength.
Now, almost five years after I began the change, I’ve kept that 100 pounds off for two years. But, more importantly, I’m in the best physical shape that I’ve ever been in and feel better and healthier. I continue to set new goals to challenge myself.
I’ve maintained an excellent score on my last four Air Force fitness tests. During my deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, I quit smoking. During my current deployment, I was afforded the opportunity to train for and complete a full marathon, which I did. My next goal is to get my half marathon time to less than two hours.
For me, finding new goals and signing up for races helps me stay committed to fitness and allows me to set goals to continue to challenge myself.
I found it within me – not in a pill or weight-loss surgery. Once I began challenging myself, I met every single challenge. I have proven myself to me. There’s no going back.
PHOTO: A before and after photo of Master Sgt. April Lapetoda, who lost 100 pounds and has since completed a marathon and several half marathons. She is the superintendent of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office. (Courtesy photos)
Senior Master Sergeant Ken Holcomb recently ran the Air Force Marathon after losing 70 pounds. SMSgt Holcomb reflects on his story and those of thousands of other runners. Additionally, he recorded the video below while wearing a lipstick cam as he ran the marathon. Congratulations to SMSgt Holcomb and everyone else for running, regardless of their reason.
Like nearly ten thousand other individuals, I recently traveled to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to participate in the 13th annual Air Force Marathon. Some came with family and friends to cheer them on while others came alone. Some people were running their first race while others were seasoned veterans of marathons. Many individuals came to run in the 5k and 10k races while others had trained to run the half and 26.2 mile full marathon.
Runners came for many different reasons but we all shared a common goal of crossing the finish line. As I ran my race, it was exhilarating to see all the different types of people of all ages, men and women, young and old. I was also amazed at the number of people who volunteered to help at the hydration stations and the people who showed up to cheer us on.
Air Force Col John Alveraz was a Navy Seal and lost his leg while in a joint special operations counter-narcotics mission in 1996. After his accident, he went through water and survival training again and got certified to fly. Although the Navy always took care of him, he choose to take an inter-service transfer to the Air Force to stay in Special Operations. He is now assigned to the Defense and Air Attaché, LaPaz, Bolivia. He ran the Marathon in dedication to 20 individuals who have either fallen or were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year’s Marathon landed on the same day that his accident happened 13 years ago.
And then there is Army Captain Ivan Castro, Castro, who is the one of three blind active-duty officers and the only one serving in Army Special Operations, ran the Air Force marathon for the second time. Castro lost visibility in both eyes while serving in Iraq Sept. 2, 2006 when a 82mm enemy mortar exploded just five feet in front of him.
When Castro was interviewed before the Air Force Marathon in 2008 he could remember the exact moment when he decided to run a marathon lying in his hospital bed at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. He overheard a doctor and nurse discussing the Marine Corps Marathon. “As they left, I thought to myself, ‘I love running. I miss running. That’s what I’m going to do,'” he said. That’s exactly what he did. Since then he’s completed several other runs. This year he ran the Air Force half marathon with a t-shirt that read “I will never accept defeat.”
I was also touched by the story I read about CMSgt. Brian Hale who was running the half marathon with his wife’s bib number. The original plan was for him to run the full 26.2 marathon while his wife ran the 13.1 mile half marathon and their daughter Breana would cheer them on. Tragically, Michelle was struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle in the early morning while training for her run. Chief Hale completed the half-marathon with bib number 4193 while his daughter and family cheered him on at the finish.
Many people out there will ask, “Why”? Why do all that training? Why would you want to get out of bed before the sun comes up, just to beat the heat and train for hours? My personal reasons were to improve my overall health and celebrate 25 years of service in the Air Force, but if you ask 100 different people you are likely to get 100 different answers. Each runner has his or her reason to run. Some of these stories are very inspiring.
The Air Force Marathon was a tremendous experience that offers a race for almost any fitness level. If these individuals have inspired you, maybe you will join us next year. To give you a idea of what it’s like to run a marathon, here is a video of the 2009 Air Force Marathon from a runners perspective.
As last Thanksgiving passed and the leftovers were all gone, one Airman had an epiphany about his portly self.
Nearly a year later and 70 pounds lighter, Senior Master Sgt. Ken Holcomb is getting ready to run the Air Force Marathon being held Sept. 19 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He plans to blog the race on his site, http://fatsergeant.blogspot.com/, every step of the way.
“I hadn’t failed a physical fitness test, but I wasn’t excelling. I ran a marathon in 2007, but with my job, it was getting harder to get out for regular runs,” said the Superintendent of the Air Force Media Center at the Public Affairs Agency.
“There aren’t a lot of areas around my office in Arlington to run, and it was hard to find someone to run with,” he said.
“I realized that I was getting way too heavy and was not in the physical shape I wanted to be in,” he said. He decided to answer the “wake up call” that meeting the standard wasn’t enough.
The new standards of the Air Force Fitness Program require Airmen to test twice per year, which Sergeant Holcomb thinks is a good idea.
“I used to procrastinate when it came to fitness. The new standards will help someone stay in shape as a way of life instead of just trying to pass a test.
“I wanted to lead by example, so I started to set short-term goals,” he said. “I had a physical fitness test coming up, and I wanted to do well.”
Through his blog site, the new-found athlete describes what has become his strict regimen of running, weightlifting and eating right.
“Vegetables and fruit are a major part of my diet,” he said. “I enjoy vegetables a lot more now than I used to.” Sergeant Holcomb cut down on processed foods, simple sugars and white flour.
“I’ve learned that my body was made to process food, not to eat food that is processed,” he said.
Sergeant Holcomb joined a running club to help him train and to workout with other people. He also goes to the gym with his 15-year-old son to lift weights and do strength training.
“I just celebrated my 25th anniversary in the military, so I set a trifecta of goals,” he said.
By sticking with his regimen, Sergeant Holcomb has reached two of the three goals he set.
His first accomplished goal was to attend his 25th high school reunion weighing the same as he did when he graduated. The goal of getting a perfect score on his physical fitness test for the first time in his career was also met.
“I was very pleased with the time I accomplished the 1.5-mile run. I did it in 9 minutes and 27 seconds, which is a good enough time for an 18-year-old Airman to get max points,” the 43-year-old said.
He said running marathons can be humbling. “I’ll be running and think I’m doing well, and then a 75-year-old person will pass me. I want to be ‘that person’ when I’m older. I do take satisfaction in realizing that I’m running faster at age 43 than I did when I was 18.”
Catch up with Sergeant Holcomb during the marathon at: